Milk and Opium: An Expat Artist’s Success Story

When I was browsing You Tube videos looking for what caught my attention, I came across the trailer for Milk and Opium. This clip captures the mood of a young male musician leaving a small village in India and traveling to the big city looking for success. That story alone interests me. The real reason this video caught my attention, however, is I know the back story about the director. Four years ago, Joel Palombo did a 10 minute conceptual art film, “Ranger Puja,” where a procession of people led by a tuba player carried a huge, and I mean huge, plywood cutout billboard style head and torso of The Lone Ranger to the Yamuna River in Old Delhi, India and floated it as an offering of sorts. The floating of the Lone Ranger was accompanied with floating candles in a Hindu style ritual until the Lone Ranger sank.

Early that morning, I stood on the bridge over the river taking pictures. This was an odd, wonderful kind of experience caused by a person using the arts to infuse two cultures in an unusual way in order to make a statement about spirituality and pop culture. The film’s message is left to the viewer’s interpretation. While Joel was figuring out how to get the Lone Ranger in and out of the water (after it sunk), people were fishing, washing clothes, collecting trash, etc. like they normally do every morning at the banks of this holy river, pollution aside.

Palombo, an American, has taught art at the American School in New Delhi for years and knows India well. Milk and Opium was a film he made while he was on sabbatical. For an interesting read, check out the link labeled “Product” of the Milk and Opium Web Site. Here, Joel explains how the film was made

Since then, it’s been on the international film festival circuit earning awards. He earned the Best New Director Award at the Brooklyn Film Festival in 2006. There have been other awards as well. In April it was at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival. Just last weekend Milk and Opium was featured at the Monaco Music Festival. After coming across the trailer, I emailed Joel to ask him about upcoming showings. He said there are some in the future, he’ll let me know. Soon you’ll be able to order Milk and Opium from the website. I’d keep an eye out for more films from Joel. I’d say he isn’t done yet.

For those of you travelers out there, maybe you’ll come across something that appeals to your creative eye. Go for it.

The Trailer